The Menzingers has been one of my favorite punk bands since my senior year of high school. After listening to “I Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore” for the first time, I was hooked. There is something so honest about this band that I’ve always respected; whether it be politics, love or aging, The Menzingers paint universal pictures that we can all relate to, and they do it without the fluff. Their upcoming LP, Hello Exile, due for release October 4, 2019 via Epitaph, is no different.
Written from a darker, more somber perspective, the band gets personal about America today, lost love, alcoholism and longing for the good old days. Here are some of my favorite tracks off of the record:
“America (You’re Freaking Me Out)”
The track says it all. It’s about the political confusion we’re all experiencing right now; the “what the fuck is going on?” moment each of us has daily. What is it going to take for us to turn the hate and hypocrisy into acceptance and equality? Will we ever get there? The Menzingers wants to find out. This is a strong beginning to the record and is sure to become a rowdy staple in their live show.
I am a huge fan of the way The Menzingers create characters and tell stories about the women they’ve known. “Casey” is one of my favorite songs of theirs because of the intimacy and strength of the lyrics. The song lacks cliches but contains a lively, coming-of-age spirit, and “Anna” is no different. Instead, the lyricist is singing about a girl they long to talk to and see again, after years apart: “I always rewind the home movies in my mind / Back to the times, first moving in with you” and “This place ain’t the same without you Anna” are some of my favorite lyrics off of this album. We all know what it’s like to wish a relationship had ended differently and “Anna” is as heartbreaking as it is endearing.
“High School Friend”
This track is about the darkness of growing up, thinking back to the adventures you had in your teens and 20s. I really like the acoustic guitar and harmonies layered throughout this mix. They add texture but don’t stand in the way of the band’s infamous punk/rock guitar tone that’s pushed to the front of the track.
“Last To Know”
This song is reminiscent of Green Day’s American Idiot in a lot of ways. The distorted guitars, deafening feedback and political lyrics give the track a heaviness that the band’s last album (After the Party) lacks. The arrangement is simple, but I think it adds to the disillusionment of the lyrics.
This track immediately became one of my favorites off the record after watching the music video. The lyricist sings “Maybe it’s for the better / We both stay strangers forever,” and I know exactly how that feels. The push and pull between reconnecting with someone you’ve had a history with is insanely difficult. You know so many things about each other, and yet you can’t even talk like you used to. I love the music video for this track because it symbolizes this numbness and confusion with a pool filled with leaves, solo cups and broken balloons. Most of the video is taken underwater with the lyricist and the girl they used to know, which I think perfectly captures this situation.
Missing youth, when times were easier, when love was simpler. These are the themes the band is lamenting throughout this track. To me, this song also marks the transition from summer into fall, and then into winter.
One of my best friends has always wanted to move to Portland. One time, we ran into Target just so Jack could buy this “Portland” sweatshirt he saw online, to prove that he was serious about it. I really like the chord progression of this track and how lively the drums are. It makes me want to buy a plane ticket and sit in a cozy Portland coffee shop for hours. Thanks for adding that to my bucket list, guys.
“Strain Your Memory”
These lyrics hit home. To me, it’s about begging the person you’ve loved for a long time to think back to all of the good times; to “strain your memory” back to when life wasn’t so hard. It’s almost like a plea to start over. The harmonies and chord progressions of the chorus make this clear. At first, I thought it was another love song similar to “Lookers,” but upon closer listening, you realize it tells a much darker story.
“I Can’t Stop Drinking”
In an interview with Kerrang, Greg Barnett shared that this is one of the more brutally honest songs off Hello Exile: “I’ve actually been working on that one for a couple of years, and I’m so glad it finally came around in the way that it did. That’s just one that, I felt like, if I was going to tell that story, I had to be brutally honest – and if I wasn’t, it would almost be cheating the song. Sometimes those stories are difficult to tell, but you have to tell them.” Alcoholism is yet another important topic that this album covers, and it is done without preachy undertones.
This album mirrors the highs and lows of life without ever being melodramatic. As the perfect sequel to After The Party, it literally expresses the idea of looking back at your life and longing for things to be different in the present. I’m so proud to be a fan of The Menzingers and to know this record will help me through hard times.
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